This article was first published on the Huffington Post Blog on November 20, 2015.
I’m tired. Really tired.
That’s generally how I feel these days.
There are so many articles out there about women in the workplace and the choices they have to make. A successful career or family first. How to measure success? To be honest, most of the time I’m not sure I’m meeting success in either area. This article is about what works for me.
My story is typical, at least in New York. I was 32 years old, working as an associate at a law firm, when I had my first daughter. I went back to work for a while after my maternity leave, but although the firm did all it could to make it manageable, in the end I chose to leave to spend more uninterrupted time with her. But, like many moms who “take time off” (if you could call it that) to raise their kids, I soon felt a yearning to return to society. I decided, like so many in my position, that this was the perfect opportunity to take a chance at something that I was passionate about. I wasn’t currently in the workforce, so the opportunity cost to make the leap seemed the lowest it had been in years.
Is this actually the worst time in my life to start a brand-new business?
So, once my second daughter hit her first birthday, I joined up with my friend and former colleague — also a mom AND also still working full time as a lawyer (she’s far too tired to blog about it) — who had already been developing a business model that I believed, and continue to believe, could make a positive difference in the world.
That was a year and a half ago. Since then, I’ve learned a lot, and there’s still a lot I’m trying to figure out.
As I already knew, parenthood is a 24/7 job. But so is running a startup. My business became, in a sense, my third baby. What does this mean for the mompreneur, who already has little people completely dependent on her? Is this actually the worst time in my life to start a brand-new business?
Fueling my self-doubt, I see others in the startup world who do not have children — they seem to have infinitely more time to spend nurturing their foundling enterprises, never letting an opportunity slip or a ball drop. Is the best time to take your chance at a start-up when you’re young and single, with nobody depending on you but yourself? Am I holding my business back by refusing to give up my role as primary caregiver in my family?
Of course, all this second-guessing is getting me nowhere, and it’s cutting into my precious sleep. At the end of the day (usually around 1:00 a.m.), I’m happy with what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.
My attempt at “having it all”: Is it “success”? Who knows. But it’s working for me.
I love being with my children. It’s perhaps masochistic that I only have one full day per week of nanny care, but that’s how it worked out and I have a hard time missing any part of their daily routines. It’s a blessing to be able to watch both my girls at soccer on Fridays, and to doze every afternoon on the floor next to my younger daughter’s crib because she asks, “Mommy can you sleep with me?” and let’s face it, I could use the extra few minutes. But I also love being an entrepreneur. I love having this entirely new, fulfilling, grinding, stressful, rewarding project to consume the rest of my waking hours.
I’m tired. Really, really tired. My fatigue has become foremost on my mind in the middle of an all-consuming Kickstarter campaign. But is that any different than how most moms feel most of the time — whether they are full-time caregivers, work outside the home or are in the middle-ground of mompreneurship? There will always be a reason sacrifice sleep for our children — because we’re moms and that’s our job. And you know what? I’m pretty sure those unattached entrepreneurs don’t get much sleep with their babies, either.
It’s nearing 1:00 a.m., so I’ll neatly tie this up.
Here are my discoveries in the form of a clear, fail-proof guide for those looking to start a business, or be a mom, or both:
1. Being a parent is a 24/7 job, whether or not you work outside the home.
2. A start-up is your baby, too. It will take as much time and nurturing as you are willing and able to give it.
3. Maybe the best time to start a business is in your 20s, when you have all the time in the world.
4. Maybe the best time to start a business is in your 40s, when your kids are older.
5. Maybe the best time to start a business is when you decide to start a business.
6. The choices regarding allocation of time spent with family and on career are the same whether I work for myself or at a large firm. The difference is that the drivers are more internal for me, and I have slightly more flexibility, being self-employed.
7. It is very important to me personally that I’m the primary caregiver of my family.
8. I probably need more childcare.
9. It’s hard to rationalize getting additional childcare when I am already spending my savings on start-up costs.
10. I could not run this business without the support of my husband and our parents with the childcare.
11. My regularly scheduled Friday date night with my husband is an indispensable part of my week.
12. This is a double roller-coaster ride, with euphoric highs and devastating lows: sometimes they balance themselves out and sometimes they compound each other.
13. Maybe my life — work/kids/marriage/self — is how I’ve made it because that’s the best way I know to live it at this time. And I’ll keep working at all aspects, day by day.
14. But first, I probably need more sleep.